A review of the
literature on anti
stigma initiatives
in mental health
Download the
The way we encounter mental
illness is a measure of our health
as a society. Whether it disturbs
and immobilises us, or en...
organisations in each state, who together make up
a strong network, encouraging dialogue, teamwork,
advocacy, research, in...
International Initiatives
Like Minds Like Mine, New Zealand (
Of all the programs reviewed, New Zeala...
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From Discrimination to Social Inclusion: A review of the literature on anti-stigma initiatives in mental healthy final


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A broad-based review of the research evidence and expert advice on what reduces stigma and discrimination in mental health. Funded by the Queensland Alliance, Australia. 2009
Written by Neasa Martin

Published in: Health & Medicine
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From Discrimination to Social Inclusion: A review of the literature on anti-stigma initiatives in mental healthy final

  1. 1. FROM DISCRIMINATION SOCIAL INCLUSION: A review of the literature on anti stigma initiatives in mental health Download the full report from the Queensland Alliance website at Stigma, Discrimination and Social Inclusion Mental health issues are very common. The Australian Bureau of Statistics identifies that half of us will experience a mental health disorder at some point in our lives, and one in five Australians experienced mental illness in the last 12 months. We are in daily contact with people affected by mental health problems. They run our banks, police our communities, and teach our children - they are our friends, neighbours, and family. The stigma attached to mental ill- health, however, prevents most people from disclosing. Fear of discrimination prevents people speaking of their experiences and seeking support from work colleagues, friends or family. The later people leave seeking help, the more significant is their ultimate call on health and social services. The Medical Journal of Australia has reported that discrimination and stigma are the biggest barriers to recovery for people with mental illness. SANE Australia’s stigma watch report identifies that discrimination against people with mental illness remains high in Australia, and that fear of discrimination is a key reason people do not seek help early .
  2. 2. The way we encounter mental illness is a measure of our health as a society. Whether it disturbs and immobilises us, or engages our humanity and cooperation, depends upon our collective willingness to open ourselves to its sufferers, and include their experience in what it means to be human. This is a challenge we are increasingly called on to meet, and one which requires the best of our resources, intellect, policy, and practice. Not only to understand the dimensions of mental health and its detriment, but to develop a socially, economically and culturally attuned response. In Australia some valuable anti- stigma programs – like Mindframe or Stigmawatch – and successful awareness and prevention programs – like beyondblue, Mental Health First Aid and Mental Illness Education Australia – already exist. A more integrated and comprehensive approach – such as those already occurring in most other OECD English-speaking countries – is urgently required. There is an emerging body of research and international literature indicating that comprehensive, well structured social inclusion initiatives change public attitudes towards mental illness, and influence our behaviour. This document summarises the international evidence on how best to tackle the stigma of mental illness. The 60- page review of literature on which this document is based was undertaken by Neasa Martin & Associates and can be found at the Queensland Alliance website, www. The purpose of this document is to present what the international experience and evidence says about how we can implement an anti-stigma initiative for social inclusion in Australia. Initiated by the Queensland Alliance, this work has been funded and supported by peak bodies in mental health across Australia. This demonstrates the widespread interest and support in anti-stigma initiatives across the mental health sector. The first action in Australia’s Fourth National Mental Health Plan 2009–2014 is“a sustained and comprehensive national stigma reduction strategy.”The recent Senate Inquiry into Mental Health (2006) and the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission Final Report (2009), have recommended that Australia invest in a national anti- stigma initiative like the New Zealand or Scottish programs. Vital to constructing that response, I am very pleased to welcome this comprehensive and informed literature review, bringing world best practice and emerging research to bear on mental illness and social inclusion in our context. As the review makes clear, our journey forward is as much about learning as about‘unlearning’; disavowing the conscious or unconscious stigmas we indulge, and the attitudes that negate or obstruct our progress. We need to begin afresh, with a model that accounts for the rights, opportunities, dignity, and contribution of every person; that makes room for everyone in our public conscience and our private consciousness. Behind this review are the leadership and determined energy of the Queensland Alliance, and of the sibling Foreword by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC Governor-General of Australia A reduction in stigma increases people’s access to health and social services; provides an economic return on the initial investment; and promotes acceptance, social inclusion and enhanced quality of life for people with mental illness.
  3. 3. organisations in each state, who together make up a strong network, encouraging dialogue, teamwork, advocacy, research, information and knowledge sharing, policy and strategy development, negotiation with government, liaison with community. To this strategic and timely intervention in a national discussion about mental illness, they bring the experience and resilience of daily confrontation with complex, demanding, and heartbreaking issues. Their commitment, perseverance, courage, and compassion will lead us forward as we build a stronger, richer, more inclusive and cohesive Australia. Recommendations Direct personal contact with people who experience mental illness is the best approach. Direct contact is the best approach to changing attitudes and behaviours, particularly when there is: a relationship of equal status; a context of cooperation, an opportunity for discussion; and credible presenters who disabuse myths of dangerousness, incompetence, and incapacity. Information alone does not change attitudes. The goal of education is to increase understanding of the challenges real people face (including discrimination), how difficulties are overcome, what helps, how others can be supportive and include messages of equality, hope and recovery. Use of creative arts and multi-media increases impact. Mental health problems are best framed as part of our shared humanity. Mental health problems are an understandable response to a unique set of circumstances and not purely as biomedical, genetically based, illnesses, or a diseased state of brain. Create a simple and enduring national vision. A vision that promotes human rights, social inclusion, full citizenship, and a shared responsibility for change will be most effective, using multi-media, and social marketing tools to create clear program outcomes and benchmarks. Support grass-roots, local programming. A national campaign that still increases contact, education, and builds consumer leadership from the grassroots up is important. Change happens at the local level. Encourage bold, creative programming and evaluate carefully. Plan strategically at the national level. Develop a national strategic plan that works in partnership with government and stakeholders to develop and deliver a multi-level national plan targeting transformative systemic change at a service system, legislative, policy and practice level. Support people living with mental health issues in active leadership. Consumer leadership should be encouraged to define issues, design programs, undertake research, and evaluate program success. Protest, disclosure and group identification are cornerstones of empowerment. Support consumer leadership and empowerment through the national program. Target programs at influential groups. Influential groups could include emergency response, policing and corrections, social service providers, employers, educators, friends, family, religious leaders. Assist media to play a significant role. Require media to have a special focus on increasing depictions of people as competent, capable and productive citizens and utilise‘first person’narratives. Challenge inaccurate or discriminatory portrayals of people with mental health issues. Utilise evidence. Programs must use evidence- informed approaches. Informed programming should also be evaluated to allow for course correction. Build knowledge through research and findings shared through program networks. Drawing on the research, international anti-stigma programs and advice from research and program experts, the following principles for best practice were identified.
  4. 4. International Initiatives Like Minds Like Mine, New Zealand ( Of all the programs reviewed, New Zealand’s‘Like Minds Like Mine’(LMLM) is a world leader in program design and delivery. LMLM is the longest running social inclusion program with more than 12 years of population surveys which evidence ongoing reductions in discriminatory attitudes towards people with mental illness. The Ministry of Health invests $5M annually: half towards localised grassroots education projects and half to mass media social marketing. See Me, Scotland ( See Me has been running for seven years and adopts a similar approach to New Zealand by investing in both localised grassroots education campaigns and broad social marketing campaigns. The first evaluation found the program had halved the percentage of Scots who believe people with mental health problems are dangerous, from 34% to 17%. Research by the London School of Economics found that an investment of £0.55 per adult Scot in the campaign can produce a cost saving of £4.26 per person: an 800% return on investment. Time To Change ( The UK campaign is the largest investment in anti-stigma initiatives, with an £18m investment over four years. The campaign was launched nationally in January 2009 with targets to change both attitudes and behaviours. It combines local, community projects alongside a national high-profile media campaign and includes a physical health promotion component. Early evaluations have shown a conservative, positive shift in both attitudes and behaviours. A way forward The economic costs of social exclusion are extremely high. Australians spend A$4.4 billion annually through lost productivity, health and social services, disability pensions, lost taxes and missed opportunity. The cost of mental ill-health is estimated at 3% – 4% of Australia’s GDP. Those countries which have undertaken a national anti-stigma and discrimination reduction program, are finding that over time there are measurable changes in public attitudes, behaviours, media reportage, and acceptance of people with mental illness. We know that discrimination is a significant issue. We know how to change, based on the success of international programs. We also know that investment in a social inclusion campaign will provide an overall benefit to the economy. This document was funded and supported by VICSERV